Bill Brioux Responds

There are two nagging thoughts that cross every writer’s mind the moment they finish working on a book, a script, a speech, a newspaper article or a blog entry.  The first one is this:  is it any good?  This is the second one:  will the public notice?
 
In the end, it’s the answer to the latter inquiry that matters more than the former.  Writers can’t survive without the support of loyal readers.
 
When this website began almost a year ago, it was impossible to tell how it would be perceived.  In the beginning, it was difficult to attract readers, an unsurprising reality for an unknown writer.  As I began posting entries on my site, there was no clear indication that people were interested in what I wanted to say or that they would ever be interested.  But near the end of 2006, thanks to numerous web searches, positive mentions as well as links to both my home page and specific pieces on other blogs, traffic increased.  (I’m closing in on 5000 hits.) 
 
And I’ve started receiving personal feedback.  There’ve been a couple of posted comments here but more recently, I’ve started receiving personal messages via email.
 
One such message stands out.
 
Imagine my surprise earlier this evening when I checked my email to discover a message from none other than Bill Brioux, the former TV Critic for The Toronto Sun.  Much to my utter amazement, he’s been reading my stuff, specifically the two most recent Sun Media pieces.  I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing with you what he sent me because it is an eye-opener revealing just how awful it truly is to work for Sun Media and Quebecor right now.  So far, it is the best written email I’ve ever received in relation to this website.  In the message, he is gracious and articulate, and more than a little upset about the state of the paper.   (More on that in a moment.)
 
Brioux (a fellow Howard Stern fan) arrived at The Toronto Sun in 2000, replacing the lovely Claire Bickley (who, disappointingly, didn’t like Stern fans crank calling TV shows) after many years working for the Canadian version of TV Guide.  I have two of his pieces from his TV Guide period, both related to two of my heroes, Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert.
 
Brioux interviewed Gene (or “the tall one”, as Bill called him) for the March 28, 1992 issue.  Then, he interviewed both Gene & Roger for the March 27, 1993 issue.  Both articles appeared in special Academy Award editions of the magazine.  I originally kept both issues in their original condition until last year when it was clear that all that needed to be saved were the articles themselves.  (I will never throw them away.)  Everything else (with the exception of the family Oscar Pool picks which have also been preserved) was recycled.  Bill’s pieces are being kept in a red file folder devoted entirely to Siskel & Ebert stuff.  Sadly, I only have a few items in there besides his pieces.
 
Back to the email.  It’s not every day a fellow writer manages to get Watergate, Edward R. Murrow, a Julius Caesar reference and a personal thank you all in the same message.  I will treasure it forever.
 
“Dennis–

I wanted to write to thank you for all the kind words and support throughout a tough time for me personally and for many of my colleagues at The Toronto Sun.

The Sun was the rebel yell in a sea of grey, the rock and roll paper in town. It was all elbows up, take no prisoners, tell the truth journalism.
 
Those were the days.
 
The saddest part about working there the last year or so was the fear in the eyes of almost everybody in the place. It had to be heartbreaking and tragic for the few Day Oners still on the floor. These men and women built The Sun out of nothing, out of the ashes of the Tely. They were not going to be silenced by a management that was no longer interested in the newspaper business. That took real courage and guts and fire in the belly. These people had plenty of spine and tremendous conviction.
 
Would that same spirit were alive today. That generation that grew up with Watergate and which was going to get to the bottom of every story has been packaged out the door or simply retired or been downsized. An entire generation of real news people has been converged out of existence. The new generation seems content to become conscripted into the marketing machinery of whatever multinational has them by the throat.
 
This isn’t the Sun I joined just seven short years ago. It was the place to be fearless. It was a place to tell it to the reader straight.
I’ll always be grateful that the Sun gave me a voice and let me use it. What else could any writer want?
 
Now editors pour over copy, deathly afraid of any words that might offend one or two people at the top. Doug Creighton must be spinning in his grave.
 
Have to agree with you on the utter ineffectiveness of the union’s little byline yanking scheme last week. What’s next–stamping your feet? Holding your breath? I’m not holding mine anymore.
 
Wearing buttons or T-shirts is not going to change anything at The Sun. The survivors are going to have to stand up and take their paper back. It will be tough in an atmosphere where there is zero tolerance for dissent. Still, what is there left to lose? Bloody well go down fighting. Otherwise, as Edward R. Murrow invoked in his Shakespearean stare down of Joseph McCarthy, “Cassius was right. ‘The fault, Dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.'”
 
In any event, at a time when words no longer seem to be as valued — at least in the old media — I wanted you to know that yours were greatly appreciated.
 
Cheers,
 
Bill Brioux (pronounced “Brio” in Ontario and “Breeeyoo” east of Kingston).”

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, February 1, 2007
2:36 a.m.

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Published in: on February 1, 2007 at 2:40 am  Leave a Comment  

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